I am a firm believer that self-esteem is created by learning what you are and are not good at, and understanding how to deal with both of those realities. Self-esteem is not created by telling a kid they are perfect and shielding them from failure, which is a misconception I saw way too often back when I was an elementary school teacher. This philosophy was easy for me to apply to other people's children. Would I be able to practice what I preached once I had kids of my own? Eh. . . sort of.
I am usually able to let my kids try and fail at things, as long as I know they won't get hurt. But I have a hard, hard time withholding praise for praise's sake. Because look at my children! They're perfect and gorgeous and perfect!
I think having a boy first caused me to let my guard down a bit. I have told him he is the most beautiful boy ever to exist pretty much since day one. And that's okay for a boy to hear, because he will inevitably be told he is smart and strong and fast and all the other wonderful things boys hear just because they're boys. As he has grown, I have worked to compliment him on his good qualities and call his attention to areas that need improvement. Since his teachers tell me he's smart and helpful, I have no problem complimenting him on that.
But Chloe—you just can't tell a girl that she's gorgeous every day of her life and not have it come back to bite you in the ass. So when she was a baby, I tried to temper the "beautiful girl!" exclamations with "and so smart and strong!" But really, what does a baby do to show you her strength of character? Not much, really—she just sits there, pooping and drooling and being breathtakingly gorgeous. So eventually I gave up, because I didn't want to lie, and just reverted to the beauty angle.
And boy did I ever screw up.
She's talking now, and I tried to use that as an opportunity to bolster her sense of self, but it might be too late. She's easily frustrated by things she can't do—way more than her brother ever has been—and she seems to rely on the adorableness thing rather than her vocabulary to (successfully) get what she wants out of us.
The nail went in the coffin this morning when, after refusing one pair of shoes in favor of another, she declared, "I cute!"
Her elementary school teachers are going to hate me.